Olympics Rings Up China Censorship Deal

    July 30, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Internet access for reporters covering the Summer Olympics in China suffers the usual blocking instead of the open surfing the press expected to find; they can thank Olympic Committee members for this.

Reporters who may have hoped to branch out beyond the slate of events at the Olympics into other issues in China likely have a 404 result in store for them. Despite assurances to the contrary, the media won’t have unfettered access to the Internet during their Olympic stays.

Reuters said not only will censorship measures be running at their usual pace for reporters, but senior Olympic Committee members brokered deals with the Chinese government on this:

“I regret that it now appears BOCOG has announced that there will be limitations on website access during Games time,” IOC press chief Kevan Gosper said, referring to Beijing’s Olympic organizers.

“I also now understand that some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related,” he said.

Sites belonging to organizations like Amnesty International remain unavailable to credentialed media, due to the government’s sensitivity to criticism from those groups.

Mark Allison, East Asia researcher for Amnesty International said on the group’s website: “The International Olympic Committee and the Organizing Committee of the Beijing Olympic Games should fulfill their commitment to ‘full media freedom’ and provide immediate uncensored Internet access at Olympic media venues.”

Chinese authorities likely believe the business of covering the athletic events should be the sole focus of working journalists visiting the country, when the Games begin on August 8th. We’re pretty certain a Chinese press delegation to the US for the Super Bowl would throw a fit if they couldn’t access sites that routinely criticize the White House, and get their concerns addressed.

China gets to play by its house rules, and everyone rushes to line up and shut up; it’s an unfortunate situation for the media presence in China. Once the Games begin, few will care beyond the events. That might be more tragic than the censorship.